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Escorted tours – a grizzly adventure

For a wildlife lover, living in London isn’t that inspiring. Escorted tours with a local could offer you viewings of, well, the majestic pigeon…the fearsome rat…the lesser spotted mangy fox. My bird feeder attracts the odd sparrow, although I have a sneaky suspicion that a gang of unruly squirrels are making well executed nut-raids in the night.

It’s always been the wild creatures of the wilderness that have inspired me: bears, wolves and wild cats. Paddington Bear, he was from London, wasn’t he? Although wandering round the city in wellies and a duffle coat, it can’t have been easy to avoid the lens once he was famous. He’s probably moved back to deepest darkest Peru by now.

So, I was looking for an opportunity to use the binoculars I got from work’s secret Santa last Christmas, and to practise my wildlife photography skills. When it’s bear spotting you’re after, it seems that Canada is the place to go for some real wildlife action, so I booked myself on a grizzly spotting adventure.

The tour began in the vibrant city of Vancouver, where we were given an orientation tour and saw some of the key sites, including the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is the highest and longest in the world, and Grouse Mountain, where we took a Skyride to the top and enjoy sweeping views over the city. There are beautiful parks in Vancouver and the best food we discovered was in China Town.

From Vancouver, we journeyed by ferry through the Gulf Islands to Vancouver Island. The great thing about the tour was that we got to experience Canada’s culture and history as well as its wildlife. Once on the island, there was an overnight stop in BC’s capital, Victoria, and we got a close up look at the totem poles that line the streets of Duncan.

Before then, I hadn’t known much about Canadian heritage, and the Native Heritage Centre was really insightful, revealing the strong connection between the native people and the Canadian wilderness, including the animals that live there.

The group were all excited as we began the most significant stretch of our Canadian adventure, travelling further into the wilderness to bear country. To reach Knight Inlet, north of Vancouver Island, we took floatplanes, with the pilot skilfully landing on water. We were then 80km from civilization in the Pacific Northwest.

Our lodge was amazing atmospheric, set amidst towering snow-capped mountains just beyond the wild coast. Experienced staff offered insight into the bears behaviour and habits, and there was just one sleep left until we could take to the special viewing platforms and see the bears in their natural habitat.

The two days following were nothing short of magnificent. We watched bears roaming in the wilderness, plucking salmon from the river with their mighty paws, and lolloping over the hillsides in small groups. The bears change from appearing gentle one minute to frightfully powerful the next, and their behaviours range from cute and playful to those of a mighty predator.

I felt overwhelmingly privileged to witness these incredible animals in action. Needless to say, I took some wonderful shots that have added a bit of wildness to my London abode.

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